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Sleeping on the Ashes: Slum Clearance in Havana in an Age of Revolution, 1930-1965

Horst, Jesse (2016) Sleeping on the Ashes: Slum Clearance in Havana in an Age of Revolution, 1930-1965. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the relationship between poor, informally housed communities and the state in Havana, Cuba, from 1930 to 1965, before and after the first socialist revolution in the Western Hemisphere. It challenges the notion of a “great divide” between Republic and Revolution by tracing contentious interactions between technocrats, politicians, and financial elites on one hand, and mobilized, mostly-Afro-descended tenants and shantytown residents on the other hand. The dynamics of housing inequality in Havana not only reflected existing socio-racial hierarchies but also produced and reconfigured them in ways that have not been systematically researched. As the urban poor resisted evictions, they utilized the legal and political systems to draw their neighborhoods into contact with the welfare state. Not merely co-opted by politicians, tenants and shantytown residents claimed housing as a citizenship right and played a decisive role in centralizing and expanding state institutions before and after the 1959 Revolution.

Far from giving the urban poor free rein over their destinies, however, their tight relationships with the Cuban state impelled officials to implement new policies drawn from abroad. Public debates over slum clearance reinforced the social-scientific discourse of a “culture of poverty” in ways that ultimately blended with the incipient socialist system. This discourse was embedded in the most beneficial interventions of the revolutionary welfare state but in ways that perpetuated racism and social exclusion. By the early 1960s, then, slum policy in Havana represented a dynamic interaction between residents, social scientists, and state bureaucrats. The urban poor shaped the Revolution, even as the Revolution sought to manage them.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Horst, Jessejesselhorst@gmail.comJLH201
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairde la Fuente,
Committee CoChairAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.eduREID1
Committee MemberMuller, Edwardekmuller@pitt.eduEKMULLER
Committee MemberPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.eduLEP12
Committee MemberMorgenstern, Scottsmorgens@pitt.eduSMORGENS
Date: 25 September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 July 2016
Approval Date: 25 September 2016
Submission Date: 30 August 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 287
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cuban Revolution, Urban Informality, Shantytowns
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2016 02:12
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:35


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